Skanke (noble family)

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Skanke is a Norwegian surname.

Connection with the Isle of Man[edit]

According to the Skanke Family Association in Norway, the family can trace its roots to Jemtland in the 1300s with a high degree of certainty, and with less certainty to the Isle of Man before that. The association's shield depicts a blue-armored leg (or shank), spurred in gold, on a field of white.

The family's use of a leg motif in its heraldry has been compared with the Manx triskelion, and Manx historian George Vaughan Chichester Young, O.B.E., supposed from the similarity that the family descends from Manx monarchs (who lost their kingdom as a result of the Treaty of Perth and the 1275 loss of the Battle of Ronaldsway). He wrote in his work "A Brief History of the Isle of Man":

The rebellion {of 1275} was, however, abortive and resulted in some members of the royal family emigrating to Norway, where their descendants are still to be found in the Norwegian family of Skankes, the Swedish family of Skunck(e)s and the Danish family of Barfods. The emigrants took with them as their Arms "the three legs", which had been the Royal Arms of the Sudreyan Kings since about the middle of the 13th century. These Arms (a modification of the ancient Indo-Germanic sun symbol) were simplified in Norway and Sweden to one leg and in Denmark to three bare feet, and later to one bare foot

—Young, G.V.C.: A Brief History of the Isle of Man, The Mansk-Svenska Publishing Co. Ltd., Peel, Isle of Man, 2001: p. 12

Skankes opposing each other[edit]

The Kalmar Union was an unstable creation, often shook by struggles between the Danish and Swedish factions within the Kalmar Union. These conditions would lead the family into battle, with relatives ending up on opposing sides in a war of succession.

In 1452, knight Ørjan Karlson Skanke from Jemtland is mentioned as agent of Charles VIII of Sweden. Orjan was sent to conquer Trondheim, the ancient centre of Norway's kings. Control of this vital city would have greatly strengthened Charles' claim to the throne.

The answer from the Danish side came quickly with knight Ørjan's own relatives, Olav Nilsson Skanke and his brother Peder, marching up from the south and pushing Ørjan out of Trondheim. The same thing happened all over again in 1453 with Ørjan seizing Trondheim and Olav and Peder driving him out once more. This second battle finally concluded the conflict over succession and ended the battles between knights of the Skanke family.

The pro-Danish side, led by the knight Olav Nilsson and his brother and fellow knight, Peder, came out on top in this struggle. The two brothers belonged to pro-Danish Norwegian forces which repeatedly defeated the Swedish forces of Charles VIII in the area around Trondheim in Mid-Norway. After their participation in the fighting the brothers got high ranking positions in the administration of Norway, Olav becoming the head man in Bergen.

Olav Nilsson Skanke warred with the Hanseatic League[edit]

Hanseatic vessel

Only a few years after becoming the main royal official in Bergen Olav lost his position due a conflict with the Hanseatic League. The League pressured the Danish king into firing Olav after he had made attempts at reducing their autonomous status in the city. In response to this Olav carried out a prolonged private war of piracy and raiding against both the League and Sweden, in the end forcing the Danish king into restoring his former position. After returning to Bergen, however, Olav was murdered by the League's men, together with his young son and his brother Peder, as well as the bishop of Bergen and many monks in the city's main church. After these murders the family, led by Olav's widow Elisabeth and her now fatherless children, continued to fiercely battle the League through piracy until receiving compensation and restoration of status some years later.

Modern era[edit]

The Skanke Family Association in Norway is open to any person holding the Skanke name. It encourages genealogical and prosopographical research into the family.


  • G.V.C. Young O.B.E. Fra Skanke-slektens historie, 1986
  • G.V.C. Young O.B.E. A Brief History of the Isle of Man, 2001
  • The three legs go to Scandinavia a monograph on the Manx royal family and their Scandinavian descendants, Peel: Mansk-Svenska Pub. Co.17 North View, 1981
  • Skanke semi-annual family magazine (Skanke-nytt) Nr. 1-2004
  • Skanke semi-annual family magazine (Skanke-nytt) Nr. 1-2005
  • Roger de Robelin Skanke ätten, ISBN 82-993791-0-5, 576pp, 1995

External links[edit]